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Hunter Harvey injury: How long will it shelve the Orioles prospect?

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Top Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey will be out for 4-6 weeks after sustaining a fractured fibula, but no need to panic, he's going to be just fine.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Injury

Non-displaced fracture of the fibula

Expected recovery time

4-6 weeks

What is the fibula and what is its role?

The fibula is the outermost of the two long bones located in your lower leg which plays an important role in stabilizing the leg and the ankle joint. During stepping, the fibula helps to prevent the ankle from rolling, which could lead to an ankle sprain or fracture.

I know the timeline for Harvey's recovery is 4-6 weeks, but is he really going to be pitching that soon?

Uhhhh maybe? I know thats the worst answer you could get but its also the best possible answer here because not all fractures of the fibula are alike. The path of Harvey's recovery will be influenced by the location of the fracture along the length of the fibula. Unfortunately, the Orioles haven't provided that information to anyone and I am forced to use the blurry video of the injury and an encouraging quote as my best resources.

Based on the video, it appears that the ball hits Harvey in the lower leg ABOVE the ankle. Having the fracture above the ankle is important is because it means the ankle joint should remain relatively stable. Had the ball hit Harvey directly on the ankle and fractured his fibula at the level of the ankle joint, Harvey may not have even been able to put weight on the leg for 6 weeks, let alone be ready to pitch again.

Going on the basis that Harvey's fracture was above the ankle joint, it is possible that Harvey could've been what people in the medical world call "weight bearing as tolerated" by the end of the week. However, given that Harvey is a professional baseball player with a very promising future, the Orioles medical team decided to take the conservative approach and have him use a walking boot and crutches to avoid putting stress on the lower leg as the fracture heals.

The amount of time Harvey is in a walking boot will be a big factor in when he returns to pitching. The longer a patient has their leg immobilized in a walking boot, the more stiffness and muscle weakness that leg will have once the boot comes off. Since it appears Harvey will remain on crutches and in the boot for closer to four weeks, it is doubtful that the Orioles will have him pitch within two weeks. After the boot is removed, rehab will focus on regaining strength and mobility in the foot, ankle, calf, and possibly the knee joint.

I know you're all probably thinking "he didn't even answer his own question," but hopefully you can see that the 4-6 week timeline depends on a bunch of things that I can only speculate about. If everything goes well Harvey COULD be ready to pitch in 4-6 weeks, but as Buck alluded to the other day, the Orioles are in no rush in terms of letting Harvey recover. If I had to guess, and since I'm writing this post I feel I have to, I would say that Harvey won't be pitching for at least another 6-8 weeks.

Will this injury be the type to linger even after it has healed?

If a fracture is managed appropriately, the bone will typically be just as strong as it was prior to the injury. Assuming that everything goes as planned with Harvey's recovery, we will most likely never hear from this injury again.